The Diaspora on Brown TikTok

BuzzFeed creative producer and TikToker Swasti Shukla (@iamswastishukla) makes both universally relatable and South Asian-specific TikToks, drawing on her upbringing to help her content hit home. (Swasti Shukla)

When 19-year-old Melvin Thanath first downloaded TikTok, he figured that it would just be another source of entertainment. But when he saw other South Asians post videos about their heritage, he felt inspired to make one himself. Last September, Thanath, who lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, posted a TikTok of himself saying “McChicken” in an Indian accent, and it went viral — gaining nearly 19,000 likes and over 170,000 views.

“I had no idea that there was a whole desi community on TikTok, and I saw there’s so much funny content, creative content, and it was just something that I really admired,” said Thanath (@malluvin, 44,400 followers). “I did it for fun at first, but then I saw I gained a pretty big following and people really enjoy my videos, so I kept making them.”

The world’s biggest TikTok stars have over 60 million followers. At least 13 of the top 40 accounts are by Indians — India is TikTok’s largest market with over 200 million users and videos hashtagged #desi garner more than 16 billion total views. But who are the South Asian Americans on TikTok? They tend to create TikToks about

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